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Irish government begins Basic Income payments to 2000 artists

The Irish government has gone ahead with its plan to support musicians and other artists with a weekly salary of €325 (£280). 

The Basic Income Scheme was originally announced in January 2022 as a response to the damage caused by lockdowns during the Covid pandemic. 

With thousands of Irish artists facing hardship as clubs, theatres and festivals were closed, a taskforce was established by the Irish Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sports and Media, Catherine Martin to seek ideas for recovery for Ireland’s vital arts community. 

However, the scheme the taskforce came up with offered possibilities for a longer-term solution which Martin said could, ‘address the earnings instability that can be associated with the intermittent, periodic and often project-based nature of work in the arts.’ And so she secured £22 million from the treasury to invest in a three-year pilot scheme. 

Over 9000 Irish artists applied to take part, including musicians, visual artists, actors, writers, filmmakers, dancers, circus performers and even architects. Of those, 2000 were chosen anonymously using randomiser software on August 29th. The successful artists come from across the republic, including 584 musicians.

Payments are being processed now and will be back-dated to 29 August. These are taxable and will be seen as self-employed income, so might affect other benefits, but they offer some stability that is unusual in the arts world. 

Martin admits that there will be many applicants who will be disappointed at not being accepted but feels positive that this could set an example for arts funding that could be taken up by other countries. ‘Ireland could lead the way on a new model to support people active in the sector, recognising its importance to all people,’ she said.

The Basic Income Scheme will run as a pilot until 2025 and the ministry will evaluate data that the recipients will be expected to provide, as well as some from a control group of those who were not accepted to the scheme, who will receive some recompense for participating. 

As the Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin said, ‘The Basic Income for the Arts is a unique opportunity for us to support our artists and creatives, and ensure that the arts thrive into the future.’